In the midst of a health crisis, the world is on a break and this is an upheaval for many people. We owe it to ourselves to stay at home, alone for some, with no more physical social interaction. New technologies, especially social networks, allow us to keep in touch with those around us, but also to stay informed and entertained from home.
However, mental health and especially anxiety disorders are identified as a major risk linked to the epidemic situation and living conditions in periods of quarantine. According to the CoviPrev study conducted by Public Health France from March to November 2020, a significant increase in depressive and anxiety disorders in the general population is observed. Here is the link of the study and detailed figures.
We are observing a growing offer on the market of numerous applications that promise to improve our mental health. Can new technologies become therapeutic tools?
Text Therapy as a therapeutic tool
Text therapy first appeared in the United States with platforms such as Talkspace or BetterHelp. Today, the offer is in perpetual growth and lighter apps, such as meditation apps for example, have also appeared on the market. It is important to identify those that can be useful to you and to be aware that these apps cannot replace a professional.
A study on text therapy was conducted last summer by Dr. Ben-Zeev who is working on the issue of “digital mental health”. The principle of the study was to follow patients suffering from mental disorders through text messages. After 3 months of testing, the results are very optimistic. 87% of the respondents would recommend this text-messaging intervention and most of them even prefer to interact by text rather than in person.
- A controversial method
However, this study is not significant and online therapy cannot be for everyone. “Therapy is a tool, it’s not something that will save you” according to Akilah Hughes interviewed in “Here’s what text therapy is really like”. Therefore, if the person who is going to use this tool wants to deal with a temporary problem, online therapy can be an option and can be effective. It can always feels good to be able to talk to someone at any time of the day. On the other hand, if it is an intense trauma, it may not be the best solution.
The same goes for apps that may be useful for some or superficial and too expensive for others.
AI & Health as therapeutic tools
Technological tools within psychology are also beginning to be used in the treatment of various disorders through artificial intelligence.
- Virtual reality to treat phobias
The example of virtual reality can be very effective in helping people treat phobias. It is well known that the best way to treat a phobia is to confront it, but this can sometimes be too difficult or dangerous. Virtual reality can therefore be a way to make approximations of the feared situation or object. In this case, the patient can continue to work on his phobia from home.
- Chatbots & IoT
Chatbots can also be used as therapeutic tools. These are accessible at any time and quickly. We saw in a previous paragraph that they can be useful to certain people in the mental health field, but more generally they can make pre-diagnoses and refer people to doctors. This is a precious time saver. The chatbot Vik specializes in breast cancer. He helps and accompanies patients throughout their treatment.
But also, the arrival on the market of IoT can bring comfort to patients’ lives. Connected watches are useful for medical monitoring for example. There are also bionic contact lenses to assist the blind people or even robotic prostheses.
New technologies are changing our way of life, we can hardly escape them and they will last. Everyone is different and we don’t all have the same ease and willingness to adapt. But if this is possible, why not use them wisely because they open up many perspectives in the health field.
Read the article written by Marina about A.I is helping against Covid19.